8.26.2007

Why could this post help you?

do not obstruct

Note: Thanks to a fantastic proofreader, my friend Marla, this blog is proofed!


Why could this post help you? Because you can tell me other things I need to remember to develop as we go back to school this fall.

You're in school as XXX student? How can you get out of school alive? Should you just hunker down and get it over with? How can you get out of school and get a j-o-b, or get some Work, or have a "career"? How will you matter? What are the things you need to think about as you go to school besides when your assignments are due? What are the skills you should develop? Where can you be most effective? How can you change the "thems, the theys, the those people" because you have the answers? What are you going to library school for: to usher in what's coming after 2.0 or to maintain the status quo? How can you be better, at changing?

Don't worry if I sound completely wrong. I most likely am in some way. I'd like to hear about it too.

On emotional intelligence: This will make some of you feel uncomfortable (and if it's any comfort this is coming from an "ENTP" -if classifications help you.) You're first guideline: Do not obstruct or obfuscate. Your technological skill set will matter little if you show a co-worker no compassion when they breakdown in front of you in absolute despair and sadness because they just lost someone they love. So what if
they're a co-worker you don't really know (which begs the question why we're not closer to the people we spend nearly all of our waking hours with...hmmmm, does "blank" keep you from expressing your humanity at work because it's feared to affect productivity? What would you do to comfort someone? Why even talk about emotions at work? If you haven't thought about the fact that we all face death and loss, that in the smallest of moments you can find the deepest well of humanity you will not be successful in bringing any change to the library world. The library world will make you feel the entire spectrum of human emotions. Let your emotions help you. We are not rational beings. We are a combination of rationality and extreme irrationality. This is fine. To be successful in your work/school/life you must deeply develop emotional intelligence. I'm not saying: become a sap. Yet, when was the last time you even had a conversation about your emotions, or feelings, or allowed yourself to ponder on thoughts about your emotions or anything about any nagging mental conditions that run like an endless-looping-script in your head? Can technological skills be learned much more quickly than you can learn to change ingrained, reactionary, feeling-based responses? Take the long way out. Leave the quick-witted path. Coddle anger like you would rock a newborn baby to sleep (because anger's really just a big, big baby who needs a nap.) Find the middle ground between technology and humanity.
Try this: for the next week give up all spontaneous reactions to someone cutting you off while driving, a colleague interrupting you, a patron telling you they know you have that book with the thing about the man who knew too much, etc...note how hard it is to not react negatively to comments, posts, or pictures, or experiences that do not fit how you think things should go. And read "The No-Asshole Rule" by Sutton.

For your in
-class sessions: develop a consensus-building methodology rather a militaristic posturing of fortifying your own opinions. Lively, engaged dialogs I have no problem with. Class discussions are not about advancing your best arguments as you would to win on some battlefield. Instead of advancing your own opinions in class seek out an opinion you must take time to assimilate as your own. Then, in doing so you will learn a few key things about yourself while developing the ability to view ideas from another student's perspective. Years from now when you are sitting in a meeting and someone is putting forth an absolute insane idea, you may be able to find some merit in it. Or you may be able to gracefully help them see the error in it. The goal of seeing into your own preferences, beliefs, attitudes, or mental habits should be quite exhilarating -yet I bet you sense resistance in your own mind as you read this. Why is that? I do too. Hmmm, maybe it's bullshit. Maybe I need to try harder.
Try this: Pick a person to understand and work to explore their view point. If you wish to be so bold, take on a view that is diametrically opposed to yours. Adopt it as your own and work on gaining an insight that causes "ah-ha!" Then, tell me how you did it.

Seek out mentors: I (thankfully) have several. Some are informal and I call/email/im irregularly. Or have one you meet on a weekly basis and just talk about life and what-ifs. One of the biggest things you can do with your mentors is "thought experiments." Mentors most likely have traits or skills or life experiences you have not had yet. Therefore draw on them.
Try this: often I get frustrated in meetings when there is no process; often those meetings are just a crazy melee. Hashing this out with one of my
mentors I developed a strategy: abandon all outcomes while maintaining hope. Good luck! ...as I don't have that one figured out at all. I just know how to notice the rising feeling of frustration now. When that feeling passes, I can cultivate some pretty cool ideas. Usually they're still hot as potatoes outta the microwave which I end up lobbing at my friends but hey, I am definitely imperfect.

Think: how would I teach this? Michael Stephens, Roy Tennant, Jessamyn West (and others I've discovered through blogging like Penelope Trunk) so distinctly embody what I consider master-students/teachers that sometimes you don't even realize how much and how often you're learning when you're talking with them or just reading something they wrote or meandering down their flickr streams. So, why does someone else think they are right? What is the middle ground I can reach? How can I bridge this information into a discipline that no one else is thinking about? I once found a cartoon about mine workers in South Africa and used it to articulate the point of being clear in how you disseminate information (via a wonderful explanation from Buckminster Fuller.) We need more library minds who want to be bridge builders, who want to smash open the OPAC, who want to Forgive Fines, who want to deliver the world of information to the world it's actually a part of. To do this, become a teacher first, researcher second, and librarian third.

Consider yourself a reader who is a leader: Read. A lot. Mostly about leadership but be very skeptical of trends, management-ish, cutie-tootie-happy-bunny-pony-titles. Take a bite o' time to assimilate. Chew thoroughly but don't eat so slow you starve. Have a process. In the book "Love is the killer App", Tim Sanders outlines how to virally spread your knowledge & gives some pretty sweet techniques for getting more out of your reading. Consider it like this, when you teach you're kinda hacking your own learning centers forging new connections thereby accelerating everyone’s ability to learn. The plasticity of our brains is so far greater than our ability to deny what we can't learn. Also, find someone who you think exemplifies leadership and find out what they studied. In "Leading quietly" Badaracco's examples are so clearly articulated you'd have to try NOT to learn from them.

While we're talking about learning: learn to pause while you're moving. I mean that (kinda) metaphorically. Moments strung together like so many disjointed vignettes are all we have. Many people far smarter than me consistently point this out. Schon's "The Reflective Practitioner" delivers a good treatise on this. Flow" by Csikszentmihalyi (Chick-sent-me-high) helps to you to see this in every activity. Hannaford's "Smart Moves: why all learning is not in your head" presents powerful ways to up-your-engagement as you learn. "Living in Balance" by Levey and Levey bursts with methods to put into action the idea of balance -which is what learning is all about. Taking Aikido wouldn't hurt either. Or Ashtanga. Or having a dog.

Become an auto-didactic: if you're not already, you need to be. This is your primus inter pares requirement for entry in the library/information professions. You should be on the bleeding edge, the event horizon, the rising tide, the perfectly tensioned state of always looking for opportunities to be learning. Have you seen The Last Mimzy? I did. [sniff sniff]

On advice and mistakes: I don't know much. I screw more things up than I fix them. I break a lot of things. I probably take too many risks. I'm not routine enough and need to proofread better. I respond too quickly. My aim lies for a shot down the middle and I'm the guy that ends of beaming someone in parking lot with a stray golf ball. But, I'm getting more and more comfortable with sticking my neck out and school is really the best place for it. Now, it may be to extreme for you to get an F because you wanted to do a project your way and really wanted to see if you professor was serious about accepting an original solution. It wasn't for me. I'm not paying lip service to taking risks. I've got a scatter shot of grades to prove I'm wiling to take risks and that this ain't just talk in case you’re wondering how far I'm willing to stick my neck out. (I would obviously prefer not to get Fs and I'm not suggesting you do it, nor am I bragging about getting bad grades because I think I'm soooooo cool.)

Develop discipline: you no doubt already have it. Take working out to start with. Most people say they don't have time to work out in school. Yet, you have time for all kinds of other habits right? Well, the first step of successful discipline is finding time. The second step is making time (which may be the first step?) The third step is using that time. The fourth step's letting nothing take that time away. The fifth step is repetition. The sixth is picking the right kind of workout. Are you training to relieve stress or compete in the Olympics? Devise the right program and you will find that you have resolute discipline. Training your body isn't about training your body, it's about training your mind. All the extreme religious ascetic practices use the body to train the mind. I don't agree on going to the extreme by the way. Sometimes though, when you start, a 100-mile run seems extreme. Once you realize that you're de-hardening habits and working to create a supple mind/body, then it's easy. Just joking. It's still work but at least you get the connection. Supple's better.

Working towards getting a j-o-b: if you're not already working in a library or some information-related profession you need to be. The people and blogs who tell you to not enter the library profession because there are no jobs are viciously blind, sadly misguided, disgruntled only because they have not continued to look for and may lack the skills to get a job. I'm not talking about the actual degree. There are other more intangible things you must build up within yourself. Yet, if you already are not working on your resume, your interview skills, an area of expertise, not blogging (or some activity that makes you process), not attending job fairs, not networking, not developing your career like any other passionate interest you have: then you will have very hard time finding a job let alone work you love. Yes, you should love your work because outside of sleeping it's the activity you are going to do for a very very very very very very long time. Accept this notion until you win the lottery at least. You also should have no compromises about the work you want to do. Getting a masters degree then working at, ohhhhh I don't know, a convenience store means you're not thinking about your choices long enough. Believe me: when someone is flinging verbal pooh at you in a restaurant, and you know you deserve better, it's one of the most disheartening feelings you can have at the end of 13-hour day. Don't get stuck being frustrated by your job like I did. Be far more awake than I was/I am as you go to school.

Remember, above all else: please, please, please come into this profession as a leader. Yes, embrace technology. Embrace change. Bring more of yourself to work while giving other people more space to be themselves at work. Embrace new ideas and create a sandbox for people to play in. Use language that includes people. Say yes first. Offer help first. Ask why not first. Help ideas succeed first. Let things happen even if you don't believe in them. How do you know what to believe in? Don't look to me to tell you that (like you were anyway?) Libraries and librarians no longer are a place of refuge from the world. You can't hide out in libraries as the world gets crazier. We need more "radical" libraries and librarians. We need less people getting out of the box and more people getting back into the right box. Read "Get Back in the Box" by Rushkoff. Libraries may well appear to be the calm center in this hurricane age of change. But, how do you know it's not really a tsunami and you're sitting on the shore -facing the wrong direction about to get slammed? Better to paddle out and ride in with the waves. We need leaders, like you
, who will do nothing short of working to re-ignite the sleeping masses that rely on you so much. You may have to re-invent yourself along with the world of libraries to do this utterly hopeless, lifelong, and thankless task. Ready to go back to school now?


1 comment:

Marla said...

thanks for the credit ;)